Review Blog

Sep 20 2013

The River Charm by Belinda Murrell

cover image

Random House Australia Children's, 2013. ISBN: 9781742757124.
(Age 12+) Recommended. Belinda Murrell has based this historical fiction novel on her ancestors, tracing the Atkinson family history in the 1800s. The book starts in the modern day with the fictional Millie who visits long lost Aunt Jessamine on the Oldbury estate. Through Aunt Jessamine's stories, the reader is taken back to the 1830s where Mamma and her daughters are suffering under an abusive husband and step-father who is leading them into financial ruin. Desperate to leave his abusive rein, Mamma fights for her rights to look after her own children. They are forced to leave their family home, Oldbury, and go deep in the bush to survive.
Through time slip, Murrell shows the reader what life was like for her real life great-great-great-great-grandmother, Charlotte Waring Atkinson, who eventually wrote the first children's book published in Australia in 1841, A Mother's Offering to Her Children.
The novel starts off slow; however after the first few chapters this reader became enthralled with Mamma, Charlotte and the rest of the Atkinson family as they struggle through many dramas. Murrell writes descriptively about life in colonial Australia, and shows the struggles that women, children and to a lesser extent Aboriginal people faced. The underlying themes of strength and courage are delivered in an honest and engaging way.
The River Charm is recommended for independent readers approximately 12 years and older. The book also has clear links to the Year 5 Australian Curriculum History content, and would make an engaging read aloud book for a class, with ample opportunity for class discussions.
Jemma Lorenz

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